Jurgen Klopp reckons Liverpool’s move for Cody Gakpo was “obvious”. Surely not nearly as obvious as the need for a new midfield…
“We cannot play like Monopoly. We never did and I don’t understand it,” Jurgen Klopp said on the back of Liverpool signing Cody Gakpo for £40m. “The next thing you can read is, ‘who next?'”
Firstly, asking a Premier League manager whether they will make any more signings in a transfer window is a necessary and unavoidable question. There won’t have been a press conference at any club in the last month in which transfer comings and goings haven’t been discussed. It would be weird not to bring it up.
Secondly, Klopp may not have had to deal with so many questions or speculation had Liverpool spent the £40m more wisely. You are playing Monopoly, Jurgen – just not very well.
“With Cody, it is obvious,” Klopp added. “Not only because we have that void [on the left] now, the quality he has, the timing is perfect – if we waited until the summer, he would be more expensive or someone else would have picked him.”
We suspect very few outsiders thought a move for Gakpo “obvious”. Seemingly destined for Manchester United, the Dutchman instead joined Liverpool, where he will battle with five other very fine forwards for three positions in the team.
That’s a very privileged position to be in, but also one which doesn’t reflect the fragility of the squad as a whole. Having two excellent options per position in attack suggests Liverpool are operating in the ideal world that Klopp is at pains to tell us (and he’s right) that they are not.
Liverpool’s attack compares very favourably with their rivals – there’s an argument for them having the most quality and depth in forward areas in the Premier League. Then you look at the midfield. Would Manchester United, Manchester City or Arsenal swap theirs for Liverpool’s? Not a chance.
While Klopp and his transfer team have done wonderful work in revamping their attack over the last few windows, often at points at which it didn’t feel as though it was necessary, the midfield has been bizarrely ignored. It’s for that reason that Gakpo feels like overkill, with the actual ‘obvious’ problem ignored.
Liverpool have scored 58 goals in 27 games this season despite the injuries to Luis Diaz, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota, and with Darwin Nunez leaving his shooting boots in Portugal. The forwards are not the problem. And in a couple of months when all of those talented attackers are back fit and champing at the bit, Liverpool will still be plodding along with a midfield not fit for purpose.
Gakpo may prove himself to be too good to have missed out on, but signing a forward on loan and spending £40m on a central midfielder feels as though it would have been a better bet for Liverpool.
They have signed four of their six first-team forwards in the last four-and-a-half years and just Thiago in central midfield. And that negligence will look particularly daft in mid-April while they’re battling for the top four with Fabinho and Naby Keita ailing while three of Gakpo, Firmino, Diaz, Jota, Mohamed Salah and Nunez watch from the bench.
Reports, as well as their apparent lack of funds, suggest they will wait until the summer to sign a midfielder. But Jude Bellingham won’t join Liverpool if they aren’t in the Champions League, and their displays against Brentford and Wolves, in which their midfield was overrun and ineffective both in and against the press, suggests they will really struggle to qualify with the options Klopp currently has at his disposal.
Even if they do make the top four and spend £130m on Bellingham, where’s the other £100m they’ll need for two further midfielders? It’s almost as though the midfield rebuilding task is now too big, or too obvious a requirement.
‘Of course we need three midfielders, but look, here’s another forward. Weren’t expecting that, were you?’ No Liverpool, we weren’t.
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